Trump’s refusal to use wartime powers to direct scarce medical supplies has left states fighting it out
(Los Angeles Times | March 25, 2020) When President Trump invoked emergency war powers last week to fight the coronavirus outbreak, many were hopeful that the federal government would take charge in addressing the nation’s dire shortage of ventilators, protective masks and other critical gear for patients and medical staff.
But Trump has not made actual use of the powers granted in the Korean War-era law known as the Defense Production Act, even though state governors, health experts and lawmakers of his own party have appealed to the administration to employ that authority to bulk up production of medical equipment and supplies, and just as critically, to ensure that they’re distributed to areas of most urgent need …
… New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has grown increasingly angry as COVID-19 cases have exceeded 26,000 in his state, about half of the infections recorded in the United States. On Tuesday he lashed out at the Trump administration’s failure to use the DPA, saying the law was made precisely for a time like now.
“When we went to war, we didn’t say, ‘Any company out there want to build a battleship? … Maybe a couple of you guys can get together and build a battleship … maybe, you think,’ ” he said, dripping with sarcasm. “That’s not how you did it. The president’s said it’s a war. It is a war. Well, then, act like it’s a war.”
Cuomo said that New York has received only 400 ventilators from the federal government. “FEMA says, ‘We’re sending 400 ventilators.’ Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?”
Jamie E. Baker, former legal adviser to the National Security Council and a professor at Syracuse University, said: “If there is a gap between voluntary production and what is needed, or anticipated to be needed, the DPA is the mechanism to close that gap” …